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Pop-up retail: It’s fast becoming (again) one of the most popular ways to win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers. It’s a trend that really became prevalent at the start of the Recession (when vacant retail storefronts became abundant), but it has stuck around and has even grown in prominence. Why? Maybe because temporary spaces can evolve as quickly as consumers’ ever-changing tastes, moods and interests do.Part of the pop-up appeal is that they come in all kinds of flavours with all kinds of purposes. Pop-ups are effective in generating buzz, reaching new audiences, testing a concept or building community in addition to driving retail sales. And there are many different types of pop-ups from the traditional 30-60 day activation to semi permanent spaces which last multiple years, to mobile pop-up retails experiences which utilise vehicle accessible locations like parking lots, parks or stadiums.
There are so many different kinds and uses of pop-ups, not all are created equal. Here are my 10 tips for making sure your pop-up makes the grade:
1. Think of it as the brand’s home. Just as your own home serves many purposes, a brand’s temporary retail space should be a place to learn about products and services but also a place to experience the brand in a three-dimensional way. Think of everything your target consumers are looking for right now in their lives, and then invite them into your brand’s home to experience it. Kellog’s Pop Tart World in New York City is a great example. http://www.poptartsworld.com/nyc.
2. Hyper-target and do your research. Temporary retail experiences are often utilized to court a new target market before investing in a full store — think Target’s Bulls-eye Bodegas, where the brand created pop-ups in Harlem before opening a store there. In order to do that, you absolutely must understand the consumer AND the neighbourhood. It’s more work, but it absolutely pays off when the surrounding area embraces your brand as its new neighbour.
3. To retail or not to retail. Not every pop-up experience needs to literally handle transactions. Think about your objectives and determine if you really need to conduct sales within the space. If you do, you’ll need to manage inventory, which requires much more space and staff. Another option is e-commerce within the venue. It depends whether the brand is more interested in using the location as an energy space to build brand equity or to launch a new product — like the Beats by Dr. Dre pop-up our company created this past November, which gave the brand full ownership of a retail store in addition to providing a place for community gathering.
4. Look for retail spaces that are run like event spaces. This approach gets the visibility of a storefront without the hassle of a leasing agent and broker’s fees. One space we love is the Open House Gallery in Nolita, home to our CNET Gotham Holiday Gift Guide pop up this past November.
5. Pick the right partner. Pop-up retail requires a breadth of services — deep consumer insights on the target, location scouting, great design that is as functional as it is beautiful, and an on-site staff that can authentically represent the brand. It pays to find one agency that can nurture the development of your brand’s pop-up experience from start to finish, ensuring that the mission and vision are represented in every facet of the program.
6. Program it. Get more bang for your buck by using the space for multiple purposes through programming. Your retail space should play host to relevant events, appearances, workshops and lectures. Adobe’s pop-up in San Francisco this past July hosted 7,700 consumers during its two weeks of operation, and over half the attendees (4,500 consumers) participated in scheduled workshops or lectures.
7. honour thy neighbourhood. NIKE Bowery Stadium, designed by Rafael de Cárdenas, draws influence from the Lower East Side and provides a place for neighbourhood up-and-comers to hold skateboarding events, poetry readings, yoga classes and film premieres — all with the added bonus of customisable NIKE gear for sale on-site. Similarly, Target opened their first Harlem store with a launch party that featured Apollo-style performances, fare from local eateries, and artwork by local artists.
8. Don’t skimp on staffing. The stakes are high for pop-ups because attendees enter what looks and feels to them like a permanent retail experience. Therefore, unlike other more “event”-type activations, they expect the staff to know everything about the brand and be able to answer specific questions about the nuances of the product — just as a retailer would. Consequently, on-site staff must be a highly trained sales force that lives and breathes the brand — not just friendly greeters stationed at the door.
9. Measure it. Whether it’s the # of units sold or the # of consumer impressions, create the right metrics to determine success. Some of our pop-ups have been able to recoup 1/3 of their investment in only 2 months. If you can track attendance numbers, social media buzz, impressions in addition to sales; there is a strong ROI story to be told back at the office.
10. Fortune favours the bold, so take risks. If you have a high aversion to risk, pop-up retail isn’t for you. Temporary experiences require that brands try something a bit scary, but the payoff often makes it worth it.